41 Action News investigation into faulty fire hydrants prompts new system in KCMO

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - 41 Action News exposed a city problem and, this month, got results.

The outdated fire hydrant inspection process in Kansas City, Mo., has now changed, and firefighters said the improvements should make residents safer.

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The city's fire and water services departments launched a new electronic inspection app in September to speed up a more accurate hydrant inspection process.

The fire department said out-of-service hydrants are detected and documented in minutes now, instead of weeks or even months.

"I think the folks really realized that the process from start to finish was really antiquated," Kip Peterson, with the Water Services Department, said. 

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There are 23,000 fire hydrants in Kansas City, and about 200 need repair each month. Firefighters place a little white placard on the defective hydrants to tell the water services department which ones to fix.

But there was no white placard indicating a faulty hydrant in Josh Priest's east Kansas City neighborhood back in April.

Firefighters responded to Priest's home at 2601 Stark. They tried to hook up to the nearest hydrant, but it was incorrectly color coded, had no white placard and only a trickle of water flowed.

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Priest tearfully told 41 Action News in April he watched firefighters struggle as his house burned.

"I asked the fire chief what was going on, and he said they have no more water," he said.

The fire destroyed Priest's house in just 13 minutes.

Deputy Fire Chief Mitch Mauer said every second counts when fighting a fire.

"You want to have water to put out a fire, you don't want to waste seconds," he said. "Seconds mean lives."

Firefighters said a fire can double in size in just 30 seconds.

After Priest's experience and 41 Action News coverage, the fire and water services departments changed the 23,000 paper inspection system into an electronic app that detects and delivers the information to the city with the push of a button. With the app, a work order is automatically created for the water services department when a hydrant needs repair.

All firefighters will use the system next year.

Battalion Chief James Garrett said it not only makes his firefighters feel safer but also, "It should make everyone around us feel safer."

In April, water services said it took a year or even years to get some hydrants repaired.

On Monday, it said that with some changes already in place, white placard hydrants only sit unrepaired for about 10 days.

The water services department hopes the new electronic app will help slash repair time down to five to 10 days by the end of the year.

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